Some Singaporeans still send real Christmas cards

Taxi driver Tan Shin Ler (above), who sends Christmas cards to her loved ones.
Taxi driver Tan Shin Ler (above), who sends Christmas cards to her loved ones.
Student Ong Lijie designed her own Christmas cards (above) this year. -- PHOTOS: TE CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Student Ong Lijie designed her own Christmas cards (above) this year. -- PHOTOS: TE CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Student Ong Lijie (above) designed her own Christmas cards this year. -- PHOTO: TED CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Student Ong Lijie (above) designed her own Christmas cards this year. -- PHOTO: TED CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The few people here who still send them feel they are more sincere than e-cards

Whenever the Christmas season swings round, taxi driver Tan Shin Ler remembers to do one thing: Post a Christmas card to her elder sister who lives in Ohio, the United States, and another one to her close friend who lives in Kuching, Sarawak.

The 44-year-old says: "Unlike e-cards, real cards just feel more sincere. You can write your thoughts and feelings in your own handwriting. The person who receives the card is more likely to be touched by it."

She is one of the few people here who still send Christmas cards to their close ones.

Printing companies say orders for Christmas cards have fallen. In fact, some have not been printing Christmas cards.

Sun Printers owner Guo Chun Xiao says the company used to print more than 200 cards a year, but it has stopped doing so in the last two years, largely due to the lack of demand.

From 2009 to last year, SingPost delivered 20 per cent fewer Christmas cards overseas or locally.

A spokesman for the company says festive card deliveries in general have been declining over the years. "This is in line with the decline in public mail volume, which has been going down year-on-year as a result of e-substitution and lifestyle changes.

"Unlike in the past, when people tended to send greetings by cards, there are now more ways for people to keep in touch, for instance, through e-communication platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype," she says.

But Mr Loh Soon Leng, managing director of Precious Thots, a leading greeting card and gift company here with 22 retail outlets, believes there is a market here for Christmas cards.

When electronic cards were launched more than seven years ago, his company saw a dip of more than 20 per cent in the sales of Christmas and other festive cards.

He says: "We thought that the sales of real cards would be going down rapidly from then."

But, surprisingly, within two years, sales of Christmas and festive cards climbed up by about 10 per cent and have stabilised since, he adds.

Every year, Precious Thots, the sole distributor of American Greetings (USA) and the main retailer of Hallmark cards here, sells about 60,000 Christmas cards, which make up close to 20 per cent of its total card sales.

Mr Loh says: "Customers told us they prefer to send real cards, which are more sincere and personal. They can also use the cards to decorate their tables and homes."

Still, he does not think sales of Christmas and festive cards will grow. "It's a relatively stable business, definitely not a sunrise one," he says.

For one thing, students are not buying cards like they used to in the past.

Mr Loh explains: "There are many things fighting for students' dollars these days. They would rather spend their money on food or a drink than on a card."

In years past, one could buy a Christmas card for about $2 to $3. These days, it tends to cost an average of $5 to $7 and even up to $20 a card. Those who can afford them are likely to be working adults, Mr Loh says.

Unlike her fellow students, however, Ms Ong Lijie recognises the value of personal cards. The 21-year-old fine arts student at Lasalle College of the Arts has decided to design and print her own Christmas cards this year. She sold some at an art market at Goodman Arts Centre last Saturday night and will be giving some to friends.

She says: "Real cards just feel different. They are more personal and sincere. You can write what you want to write and add doodles if you like.

"Whenever I receive a card, I always feel very touched. It's also nice to see another person's handwriting."

leawee@sph.com.sg